Newsflash ladies: there’s a new relationship trap making the rounds that is considered both deceptive and toxic. It’s referred to as triangulation and evidently it’s going around. Or just being noticed or talked about more.
You may have come across the term on social media. Triangulation is a manipulation technique used by narcissists to get and maintain control over you. It’s a process that you might be a party to without even being aware what’s going down around you.
In relationships, triangulation often involves pitting people against each other, with the manipulator calling the shots. The other two parties may not have any direct contact, but still find themselves in the position of rivals or put into conflict. When this is part of a romantic relationship, the result is nothing short of emotional abuse.
If all this sounds complicated or convoluted, that’s because it is. Far from a love triangle, this head game is marked by high drama and insecurity. Psychologists say it is frequently used as a way to gain power and give the instigator much sought after attention and a sense of self-esteem.
Dr. Stephen B. Karpman describes the series of three common roles of triangulation in relationships:
The Persecutor: the person in this role is typically seen as the instigator. Typically a classic narcissist, this person might use threats, blame, criticism or personal attacks to establish a “wrongdoer” in their eyes. They bash one person to another person.
The Victim: this type of person will present themselves as helpless, being taken advantage of, and in need of someone to rescue them. By doing this, they deflect responsibility for their own words and actions onto someone else. Narcissists can also thrive in this role, as well.
The Rescuer: this role typically falls to a support person in the narcissist’s life, but sometimes a narcissist will engage in this role to gain more of a sense of superiority in this way as well. The person in this role fixes things, “smooths things over,” and sometimes accepts responsibility for the narcissist’s feelings or behaviors in order to restore peace.
Bringing in a third person into the dynamic, even if they are not physically present, sets up a situation where the romantic partner is coerced into agreeing with them because the other person is made out to be wrong or bad. Or the romantic partner is put into conflict with a supposed rival. All of these make the puppet-master feel superior.
Making matters worse: many times the ‘third person’ in this triangle doesn’t know they are being used. For example, the instigator may constantly bash an ex…accusing them of behaviors or blaming them for things. Or the third party innocent might be set up as a rival because the instigator speaks favorably of them, puts them on a pedestal or claims this person likes them or wants to be with them. Making their partner feel like they have to compete, or win the affections of their romantic partner.
Twisted right? If you believe the chatter, it’s the newest ploy since we all fell for the ‘love bombers.’ Experts say the end game is the same, to manipulate emotions and gain control in a relationship. So, consider yourself warned.